Last weekend, I fell in love with Paris. After seven years of French classes and short essays about my imaginary summer in France, I finally got to eat croissants and crêpes in the shade of the Eiffel Tower, stand face to face with the Mona Lisa, and stroll down the banks of the Seine at dusk. Every neighborhood I explored became my new favorite—Bastille, Montmartre, le Quartier Latin, les Champs-Élysées. To be honest, I expected Paris to be overrated, but it was in every way as beautiful and magical and romantic as Hemingway and Picasso believed.
This weekend, my heart broke for Paris. On Friday night, just as tourists and Parisians were beginning their weekends, a coordinated series of mass shootings and suicide bombings threw the city into chaos. By the end of the night, 130 were dead and over 350 were injured. Countless lives were irreversibly changed. The next morning, I woke up in a post-9/11, post-Paris world.
I am ashamed to admit it, but my first reaction to the news was a uniquely American brand of melancholy apathy. 18 dead, my New York Times app alerted me, and I immediately thought "How sad, another shooting. Oh well." It wasn't until I got home that night and learned of the growing death toll and the ongoing hostage crisis in the Bataclan that I understood the gravity and immensity of what had happened.
That first night, I was scared. I was scared because I recognized the places I was reading about in the news, remembered trying to navigate those exact streets less than a week before. I was scared because the fluidity of Europe's borders made this tragedy seem closer than any since 9/11. I was scared that my friends studying in or visiting Paris wouldn't make it home. I was scared that the attacks weren't over for Paris, or that they could continue in other European cities. For the first time since arriving in Amsterdam, I was scared for my life.
Even now, I am scared. I am scared for my parents, for my hijab-wearing mother and my father named Mohammad, as anti-Muslim sentiment soars in America. I am scared for the millions of refugees who are being blamed for the same violence that they are fleeing, who are now being denied asylum in some of the only places that have the resources to offer it. I am scared for the hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent people who will become collateral damage in the name of justice for this heinous crime. I am scared for the people of Paris, who face fear and uncertainty on a daily basis as they attempt to carry on and rebuild a sense of normalcy.
In the days since the attacks, my Facebook news feed (which is basically a portal to the collective consciousness of the people who comprise my little world) has analyzed this tragedy in more ways than I can count. There are those who are understandably angry that similar acts of terror in Beirut and Baghdad did not receive as much media coverage and anger as they should have, there are those who post about refugees, mostly defending them, and of course there is the seemingly endless stream of profile pictures overlaid with the French flag in a show of solidarity. These are all thoughtful and worthy discussions but too often it feels like we are yelling over one another and sometimes, over tragedy.
I have, until now, kept quiet about the events in Paris because I don't have the answers. I still don't have the answers, but writing about that night and the whirlwind of emotions I've been experiencing since is the only way I know how to keep it all in order. I am scared, and I am angry, and I am sad for a reality in which so many must be mourned for the world to take notice. I don't have the answers; all I have is a plea for humanity. As you try to make sense of senseless murder, please remember that violence isn't and shouldn't be the norm anywhere, that human life is sacred in every nation and of every color and religion. Remember to be grateful for the simple fact of safety and to show compassion to all who you encounter. Most importantly, remember the strength and hope that Paris has always stood for, which stands true for the overall goodness of humanity: she is tossed by the waves but does not sink.
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<p>Hallo! My name is Aniqa Raihan and I am a junior at the George Washington University majoring in international affairs. I'm hoping to take my international education beyond the classroom by spending a semester in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Join me as I meet new people, explore new places, and hopefully, find my home away from home.</p>